While the Toronto Maple Leafs have only had four trades with the Colorado Avalanche in their 22-year existence, their dealings go back much further to a time when the Avs resided in Quebec as the Nordiques.
At that time, the Leafs acquired a player that would play a major role in the franchise’s history and would eventually wear the ‘C’ for the team. But that wasn’t the most recent trade between the Leafs and Avalanche-Nordiques franchise.
In fact, it was the fifth most recent deal between the two clubs and one that we’ll talk about a bit later.
Welcoming Mr. Smith
First off, however, we’ll start with a deal the two clubs made back on Feb. 21, 2016. It was then that the Leafs acquired forward Colin Smith and a 2016 fourth-round pick from the Avalanche in exchange for Shawn Matthias.
Matthias had played 51 games for the Leafs with 17 points to show for it. But he was quickly moved to the Avs, where he played 20 games and accumulated another 11 points to finish off the 2015-16 season. From there, he signed with the Winnipeg Jets and remains a part of their team.
As for the Leafs, they got Smith who had played one game with the Avs. The Leafs eventually released him and he now finds himself in the Calgary Flames’ organization as a member of the AHL’s Stockton Heat.
As for the pick, the Leafs used it to take Keaton Middleton with the 101st overall selection in 2016. Middleton is in his fourth year with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit where he is having a career season with 24 points in 62 games. While he has yet to sign a professional contract, the Leafs have until Jun. 1, 2018, to sign the young defenceman.
O’Byrne on the Blue Line
Before the Smith deal, it was another minor trade that had these two teams at the table. On Apr. 3, 2013, the Leafs acquired defenceman Ryan O’Byrne from the Avalanche for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
O’Byrne played just eight games for the Leafs to close out the 2012-13 season scoring a goal and two points and eventually ending his NHL career. Since then, he’s spent time in the KHL, Switzerland and Sweden most recently in 2015-16.
The Avs, on the other hand, used the fourth-rounder to take Nick Magyar with the 93rd overall selection in 2014. After finishing his OHL career with the Kitchener Rangers in 2015-16, Magyar has yet to make any sort of appearance at the NHL level.
Searching for Liles
On Jun. 24, 2011, it was another defenceman that the Leafs were after. The team acquired veteran defenceman John-Michael Liles who had spent the first seven years of his career with the Avalanche. In return, Colorado picked up a second-round pick in 2012.
Liles came to Toronto and played 104 games for the Leafs over parts of three seasons before the Leafs moved him to Carolina in 2013-14. Over that time, he tallied 9 goals and 38 points for the blue and white.
The pick was used by the Avalanche in a trade to acquire goaltender Semyon Varlamov from Washington, who also turned the pick around in a deal with the Dallas Stars to obtain the services of Mike Ribeiro. From there, the Stars used the pick to take Mike Winther with the 54th overall selection in 2012.
That said, Winther hasn’t played at the NHL level since being drafted by the Stars back in 2012.
Rychel’s Worth the Money
Before that, it was the first move the Leafs made with the newly relocated Avalanche and it happened on Oct. 2, 1995. The Leafs acquired cash from the Avalanche for enforcer Warren Rychel.
Rychel, who collected seven points for the Leafs in 26 games, played 52 games for the Avalanche in 1995-96 and tallied eight points. He won the Stanley Cup with the team that year and finished his NHL career with the Avs following a short stint in Anaheim.
He’s remained in the game as the general manager of the Windsor Spitfires – winning three Memorial Cups with the team since his tenure began (2009, 2010 and 2017).
Oh Captain, My Captain
Finally, the fifth most recent trade between these franchises came back on Jun. 28, 1994, when the Nordiques were still in Quebec. In it, the Leafs acquired Garth Butcher, Mats Sundin, Todd Warriner and a first-round pick in 1994 in exchange for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a first-round pick in 1994.
Butcher played 45 games for the Leafs following the trade, tallying eight points. Warriner played 253 regular season games for the blue and white, collecting 36 goals and 84 points over his time in Toronto.
In Sundin, the Leafs found themselves a franchise centre who just couldn’t find a way to win a Cup in Toronto. However, he did play 981 regular season games for the Leafs with 420 goals and 987 points over that span. On top of that, he added 70 points in 73 postseason games for the team.
Better yet, he finished his Leafs’ career as the franchise leader in goals, points and game-winning goals on his way to being the top scoring Swedish-born player in NHL history.
As for the pick, it eventually ended up in the hands of Washington, who used it to take Nolan Baumgartner with the 10th overall selection.
On the other side, Lefebvre went on to play 351 games for the Nordiques-Avalanche franchise, scoring 11 goals and 72 points over that span. He captured a Stanley Cup as a member of the Avs in 1995-96.
Wilson played just 16 games for the Avs over two seasons and scored four points, while Clark scored 30 points of his own in 37 games for the Nordiques. Following a quick stint with the Islanders, Clark was back with the Leafs for his second tenure with the team before finishing his career in Toronto in 1999-00.
As for the pick, the Nordiques took defenceman Jeff Kealty 22nd overall in 1994, but he never reached the NHL level.
With all those moves in mind, what are your thoughts on the deals made between the Leafs and Avalanche-Nordiques franchise? Were there any clear winners? Be sure to share your thoughts on the last five trades between these two teams and tune in when we look at the most recent deals between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.